Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Legislature have announced the first plans for spending the state’s portion of a multi-billion dollar mortgage settlement with major banks.
At a Legislative Budget Commission meeting next week, Bondi will present plans to spend $60 million of the $334 million settlement on a wide range of housing aid programs.
If approved by the LBC, the cash will go to the following programs:
- --$35 million for Down Payment Assistance (Florida Housing Finance Corporation)
- --$10 million for Foreclosure Counseling (Florida Housing Finance Corporation)
- --$5 million for Reducing the Foreclosure Backlog (State Courts System)
- --$5 million for Legal Aid (Various providers)
- --$5 million for Attorney General’s Legal Fees (Attorney General’s Office)
Florida has come under criticism for being the last state in the country to decide how to spend the state portion of last year's settlement. For several months last year, the money sat in escrow while Bondi and leaders in the Legislature debated who had the authority to spend it.
In November, Bondi, House Speaker Will Weatherford and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz announced an agreement that would give the Legislature authority to decide how the money is spent, while committing to use it for housing aid as Bondi intended.
Some states have diverted some of the settlement money from housing-related causes, while others have used all of it for housing programs.
About $74 million of Florida's $334 million was diverted to state coffers for general spending. Under the latest proposal, another $5 million will be cut out for legal fees at the attorney general's office.
Florida currently has the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, with more than 500,000 homeowners currently stuck in the foreclosure process. Some homeowners have already received direct relief from the foreclosure settlement, which required banks to work directly with homeowners to prevent foreclosures.
Most of the state’s portion of the settlement will not reach homeowners until after the Legislature meets for its 60-day session which begins in March.